DEVONthink Part 3 - Importing and Indexing

In this post I'm going to discuss one of the most important factors when it comes to DEVONthink Pro Office and that is Importing Data. It's all well and good knowing what DEVONthink is for, yet how do we get data in there in the first place?

Import or Index?

Firstly, it's important to understand how files are referenced. There are two distinct ways that DEVONthink can reference files. Documents can either be imported or indexed. Imported files are copied directly into the DEVONthink database itself, whereas indexed files are stored externally to the database. 

Importing files is very simple. You can select File then Import and make your selection from the Finder window that appears. You can also drag and drop files directly into DEVONthink groups from the desktop or Finder. This is really handy, especially when you are using your device in Split Screen mode. 

Personally, I import documents in the following ways:

1) Hazel - I have various folders that have Hazel rules applied to them. The rules will process, tag and rename my files and then move them from their original location to the Global Inbox in DEVONthink. I don't have to think about it until I process my Global Inbox and move them to the relevant project database. 

2) ScanSnap Manager - DEVONthink has superb ScanSnap support and I use my Fujitsu ScanSnap to scan documents and send directly into DEVONthink (or to one of my Hazel controlled folders for rule processing if I know it's a common statement, invoice etc)

3) DEVONthink To Go - This will be covered in a later post, however if you install DEVONthink To Go, then you can clip content in there on your iOS devices. I have to admit, it's not as reliable as I need from a mobile solution (especially one that is so key to my business) so I don't use this as often as I would like. I tend to place documents into a Dropbox folder when I'm roaming and let Hazel send that document to my Global Inbox. 

4) Web Clipper Extension - DEVONthink To Go may be a chore but the Web Clipper extension for Safari is great and I use this a lot for gathering web content and saving to DEVONthink. When you find a site whose content you wish to store in a database, click the Safari extension (there is a Chrome one too) and you can select the group you would like to save to, change the reference name, make Notes/Tags and select the Format you would like to save to. You can even format the output with Instapaper to give that gorgeous look to your documents that Instapaper brings. 

Getting data out of DEVONthink is simple. Remember, your files don't become entities in some SQL-style database. They are files that you can still drag/drop anywhere you like. Quite often I will find myself right-clicking a file, selecting Show In Finder so I can see exactly where a given file is located and then moving it out of DEVONthink into a new location. That is an important distinction to make when you try to compare DEVONthink Pro Office with Evernote. Quite often you will find it hard to export something from Evernote once you've imported. Not the case with DEVONthink. 

Indexing Files is even easier. An example of one of my indexed workflows is as follows:

I have a folder in Dropbox called Client A. I keep all manner of documents pertaining to this client within that folder, and the fact that it is a Dropbox folder means I can make changes on the move on any device.In order to indexthis folder in DEVONthink to allow it to be referenced in search results, I select File then Index (or click ⌥⌘X



and on the resulting Finder window, I select the Client A Folder. This folder, despite living externally to DEVONthink Pro Office, is now presented for us to use. You can tell it is an indexed folder by the arrow to the right of the folder name. Imagine it as an arrow pointing to a location outside of the application. 

If you delete a file from an indexed folder in DEVONthink, it does NOT make any changes to the original location. 

I use indexing a lot, especially when I know I'm going to need to make frequent changes to files when I'm on the move, so I will invariably use Dropbox folders for the source location of the items and then index the folders as a whole. You aren't restricted to indexing folders only, however. Individual items can be indexed as well if required. 

Import Preferences

Most of the Preferences that you can set for importing documents into DEVONthink will be left at their defaults. 


You can see that you can specify a range of file types that are able to be imported. I'm rarely going to need to import Quick Time Movies or AppleScripts, however there is no harm for me in leaving them checked should the need arise. 

The areas that are more susceptible to a change in setting are for Titles and Destination. I like to see the extension as part of the name so I can see at a glance exactly what file type I'm looking at. Lots of people prefer to have the extension stripped out so it's a case of personal taste.

Destination is a little more involved. I like all new documents to go straight into the Global Inbox (a default catch-all container). From here, I will then process the files accordingly with tags and send them on their way to their final container. You may decide that you wish to Select the group as your documents are imported. This is a way of filing as you go however I'd rather dedicate time to processing my inbox as a whole rather than file as they are imported. It works better for me that way. 

You can also set to automatically import documents to the index of your current database which I occasionally set when I know I'm spending the whole day in just one database. 

That pretty much covers how to reference data in DEVONthink. Next time, I look at the differences between Duplicates and Replicants and why they are so ace!